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“In the words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.” (Proverbs 31:1)

Whew. Being a mother is exhausting. It is the most thankless, tiring, underpaid, dirty, stressful job you will ever find. When I (Jen) get to Heaven one day, I want to ask the Lord how many diapers I have changed. Sometimes when I have to fill out forms that ask for my occupation, I can get a little snarky and I list out things like, doctor, nurse, teacher, chef, veterinarian, scheduler, cosmetologist, chauffeur, maid, janitor, dairy farmer, gardener, professional grocery shopper, pig farmer, interrogator, director of finances, referee, dishwasher, laundry folder…you get my drift. Or should I say “Dreft.” Haha, that’s a laundry joke. I’m just over here cracking myself up. When I looked online for what moms should get paid it was like $184,820 for a fair market salary (and we know that everything we read on the internet is true). I’m a preacher’s wife, so I like to round up. It’s safe to say every mom in your life should be making close to $190,000 a year. Fellas don’t be upset. I know you work hard and juggle a lot too. I mean your job is to emulate Jesus, so there’s that. And just because this is a “mother” chapter doesn’t mean you get to skip out! Lord willing it will give you a better understanding of your wife and maybe even your own mother…so keep reading! And another disclaimer…even if you don’t have biological children of your own, keep reading. I know many women who don’t, but they help me mother my own kids and do a fantastic job at it. I wouldn’t survive without them.

One of the many things that stresses me out is teaching my kids. My oldest is 17, she will leave me soon. (How unfair by the way, they get to the age where I’ve poured my life and soul into them, they are productive members of society and then they leave! Who came up with that plan?!) I ask myself all of the time, have I taught them enough? Have I taught them the right things? What if they forget? What if I fail? Annnnd that’s when my anxiety kicks in. You can hear my thoughts spiraling.

Let’s look at Proverbs chapter 31 together. Some of us will be familiar with verses 10-31, the Virtuous Woman chapter. But I want to focus on verses 1-9. You have a mother wanting the very best for her son. He is the king after all. He has a very important job. I think we can all agree that we want the very best for our children, no matter what their roles will be in the world. In typical mom fashion, she sounds to me like she starts out this chapter by scolding him, “What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows?” (Proverbs 31:2). Any kid knows if mom says to you three times, “What the heck are you doing?” They are in trouble, no matter their age.

So, who is this king? King Lemuel. According to the “Expositors Bible Commentary,” “Nothing is known about King Lemuel…Jewish legend identifies Lemuel as Solomon and the advice as from Bathsheba from a time when Solomon indulged in magic with his Egyptian wife.” (That certainly would have me hollering at my son with a few “What the hecks!”) When I study, I like to learn who is writing and why they are writing. This one blew my mind. Is Bathsheba possibly writing all of these wise words to her son? The lady who was bathing on a rooftop, slept with the king, and had a child with him. (I always wondered if she was in on the plot to kill her husband.) Man, the grace of God is good. Whether or not she is the mother here, what are the things we can learn from her and teach our own kids?

“Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings” (Proverbs 31:3). In my words, don’t waste your time and energy on lust, on pornography, on the affection and attention of the opposite sex. It destroys. (Be prepared for a rant.) We live in an overly sexualized culture. I went to a football game last night and I was appalled at little girls (under 10) shaking and moving their bodies like scandalous strippers working for a buck, while their parents just stand there in the bleachers. You can’t drive down the highway without seeing inappropriate signs; sex sells everything. Half the time I’m trying to figure out what they are actually trying to sell. Ohhhh a showerhead. I get it. It’s ridiculous. We hand our kids iPhones, tablets, computers, and gaming systems that we won’t monitor. Why? Because that’s just more work. It’s easier if it just keeps them busy, then we don’t have to worry about them. Proverbs 29:15 says, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” We are living in a world where our children are left to their own devices (literally, pun intended) to raise themselves. They are addicted to screens, addicted to pornography, addicted to self, and addicted to social media. And we don’t want to talk about it. We want to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not our kid. We think we’re the exception. The mother in Proverbs is talking about it, we should be talking about it. She warns us and says it will DESTROY! It is DESTROYING! How many moms are vicariously living through their daughters? Welp, my body doesn’t look like that anymore, so you might as well flaunt it while you have it. Or how many are pushing their sons to pursue girls? (Well, at least we know he’s straight then!) We are either pushing our CHILDREN to maturity way before we should be or maybe we aren’t pushing it at all and we’re literally just standing by and allowing it. No wonder they are depressed and suicidal. You just let him have a long relationship that they weren’t emotionally ready to handle, and when they break up, much like a divorce they can’t handle it. No crap?! People that get divorced in their 30s, 40s, 50s can’t handle it either. But let’s let our kids whose brains aren’t even fully developed yet, pretend and play house. It’s fine. Where’s the harm in it? Let's just sit on the sidelines and let all of this happen to our children. The next generation.

Instead, we as mothers need to put down our own devices, maybe not be obsessed with going to the gym, how we look, or working. Look at our kids in the face and say, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Lord put you together EXACTLY like He wanted you. You don’t need to change yourself to draw the attention of the opposite sex. (My heart is racing, I’m out of breath and I’m just typing this!) Don’t waste your time and energy on this.”  It’s like we just gave up and quit fighting for our kids. Or we are fighting for the wrong things. Everyone around right now is fighting about masks in school. What about fighting Satan attacking your children? Are you fighting to grow virtuous women? Are you fighting to grow mighty men for the Lord? Do we think this stuff just happens? Let me remind you, a child left to himself will bring shame to you, mom.

Second, she warns, “It is not for Kings, O Lemuel. It is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5). I’m not here to debate whether you should drink or not, so save the eye rolls. What I take from this passage is that there are things that we let get in the way of our responsibilities. This mom was teaching her son that drinking would get in the way of making good decisions for his people. She says, “Honey, this isn’t for you. Kings should not crave or be addicted to strong drinks. It clouds your head, gives you bad judgment, and your job is 24/7. At any point, you could be called upon.” Does this sound familiar? Being a mom, you are on call 24/7. And don’t believe the lie that it ends in 18 years. This lesson made me think. A lot. I prayed for the Lord to reveal to me, how do I take this weird chunk of Scripture before the famous Proverbs chapter 31 bit, that not a whole lot of people have a ton to say about, and make it applicable to moms? And then it hit me…thank the Lord…distractions. She’s telling Lemuel this will distract you from your work, your God-given calling. Ouch. We live in a world full of distractions. If we are not distracted, we’re bored and that doesn’t take long. We fill every single moment of every single day with noise of some kind. We can’t even sit at a traffic light without checking our phones, texts, and email all in 30 seconds of waiting for the light to turn green. We mindlessly scroll while we wait in line at the grocery store, while we sit at the doctor’s office, while we should be conversing with our spouses. We listen to music because we don’t like the silence. If you’re really spiritual, you fill the silence with sermons. We fill our schedules to the brim because it makes us feel validated. We make sure our Instagram and Facebook posts are updated. We binge-watch hours of Netflix. We’re busy, we’re distracted, and we’re supposed to be mothering. We are short with our kids. We are annoyed when they need us. We give the world our best and our kids the worst. What is distracting you from being the mother God called you to be to your kids? Sometimes I think those distractions can even be good things that we are trying to give our kids. I love to cook and bake from scratch. I love real food to feed my kids. I love to can and eat fresh peaches in the winter. I even milk a stinking cow for my lactose-intolerant kid (I do love my cows though). All of this I do in the name of my kids. I know they love and appreciate it all, (my oldest says, I take my “momming” very seriously) but there are times where I know I should just go play dolls, throw a ball, play hide and seek, or take them on a date to Wendy’s. Gasp! They would rather just have me, my eyes locked on theirs. It’s not even a “would rather,” it’s a need. Our kids need us. There’s no replacement for you, Mom. God gave you your child, whether it’s one or ten of them. He gave them to you. He said you are the best fit for him or her. Maybe they are a bit challenging, busy, emotional, but God paired the two of you up. It was no accident. He said, with me, you can do this! The Lord is your #1 cheerleader. What has the Lord called us to be as mothers? I like to look at Titus chapter 3 for this one (we will tackle Proverbs 31:10-31 later of course). It says that godly women are to be holy, chaste, not a gossip, kind, self-controlled, and a teacher. I love that it lists teacher. I wouldn’t say I am a teacher by nature. But I know that it is my God-given responsibility to teach my children the ways of the Lord. How do we do that? I take every opportunity that comes my way to point my kids to the Lord, well I try anyway. Sometimes that comes in the form of a serious conversation, sometimes that comes in the form of a curious question, sometimes that is me initiating prayer with them. The things I wish I was better at with them are Bible reading and Scripture memorization. How are you imparting to the next generation the things of the Lord?

Third, she says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Whenever my kids go to camp, I write them a letter and shove it into their bag packed full of all of their camp things, hoping they will find it before that bag becomes too scurvy. One of the things I always try to convey to them is to make sure they speak up for someone if they see an injustice happening. A lot of my kids are pleasers (like me) and it’s just easier to not speak up, draw attention to yourself, or cause conflict. One of our many jobs as moms is to teach our kids to speak up. Especially for those who can’t speak for themselves. I remember when Josh and I were first married, his brother Isaiah was still in high school. He worked with the special needs class. One day some punk kid was picking on and making fun of his special needs buddy. Needless to say, Isaiah punched the kid and he got suspended. I remember we were all so proud of him. He protected someone who couldn’t protect themselves. Are you teaching your kids to do this? It’s ultimately teaching them to see other people and to serve other people. Which they aren’t going to learn if you aren’t modeling it. When is the last time you served someone? When is the last time your kids saw you serve someone? Or you at least told them a story about you serving someone? We live in a sea of people daily, look for opportunities. My favorite is the grocery store. My kids get tired of hearing all of mom’s weird grocery shopping trips. We all have those dumb, limitless self-check-out lanes …I swear I am getting a full-on workout when I use those! Have you ever thought about staying and bagging the groceries of whoever is behind you? You should see their faces. Or the little lady in the motorized cart in your aisle, reach the things she needs, so she doesn’t have to get up. How about thanking the guys who are stocking the shelves? We need our kids to see that serving people doesn’t just happen on big overseas mission trips but in our daily lives.

One of the concepts in Scripture that haunts me is Judges 2:10, “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” How terrifying to think that if I don’t take the responsibility to teach my children the ways of the Lord that they may have no idea who He is. Josh and I see that happen often in the church. You have parents that grew up in the church, maybe they felt like they spent too much time there as a kid. And that may be the case, but they swing in the total opposite direction and their kids are growing up godless. It’s heartbreaking. Remember what Proverbs 1:8-9 says, “Hear my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” In order for your kids to have those garlands and pendants, you better get to teaching.

Claire, Belle, Maverick, Ruby and Mavis,
Being your mom has been one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do. I loved when you were all little babies and smooching your chubby cheeks. I still smooch them, they’re not nearly as chubby, and Maverick grimaces every time I try. But what have I told you? I will be smooching them until I die, so you better get used to it. You’re all almost bigger than me now, I never thought I would survive five babies in ten years with a four-year break. It’s only because of the Lord I still have my sanity, although I may not after this book!

 I hope and pray that I have been a godly mother for you. I take my job seriously and I hope that you have felt that over the years. The Lord is your number one cheerleader in life. I am your number two. I know the Lord will be calling you to do some amazing things in the future. You are all beyond capable. I get a front-row seat in watching the Lord develop you, mold you, and shape you into what He wants you to be.

Be adventurous. Do fast, crazy fun things. Just tell me about it when you are done so I don’t worry about you. We have gotten to do some amazing trips as a family. I pray as you grow that you won’t stop exploring the Lord’s creation. Belle, get to Paris, Claire, hike the Appalachian Trail, Maverick, go gator hunting. Ruby and Mavis, you’re still little but I’m sure you’ll have some wild place you want to travel to also. Remember when we went out west and hiked the Rocky’s, when we went rafting down the Green River, when we went spelunking in Tennessee, or stopped in a nature preserve in Georgia and I thought your Dad may get eaten by an alligator! These are all things we did to show you how amazing the Lord is and how walking with the Lord is the ultimate adventure.

Be wise. Pray for wisdom daily. We live in a world that doesn’t fear the Lord. You will need lots of wisdom from the Lord to survive in this crazy.

Be leaders. In a world of followers, be leaders. Lead others to the Lord.

Maverick, stay away from Floozies. Search for a Proverbs 31 woman.

Girls, find men, God-fearing men, that will point you to Jesus.

I love you all, more than you will ever understand.


Questions for Reflection

Do you hide from tough conversations with your kids?

Were you a child left to himself?

How did your upbringing shape how you parent?

What distractions do you need to get rid of?

How can you better teach your kids the ways of the Lord?

What do you need to change to be the godly mother you are called to be?

Guys, what can you do to encourage your wife to be a godly mother?

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